And now in new MONTHLY fashion…

Doing my level best to try and keep this blog more of a monthly and less of a quarterly edition thing this year. Hence I am getting this post in BEFORE work takes over my life once again. So trialling successes of late…we’ve only had two trials back this year so far and I am for the most part very happy with how the dogs are running and how my calf muscle has healed up allowing me to go run again. On the Saturday the 17th Cloverdale held their fun teams and gamblers event. Games in WA are still a rarity although looking at the Canine News we seem to have quite a few coming up thank goodness. There is a reason why so few dogs have their Masters titles in any games over here and it is really form a total lack of games being offered. There seems to be about three lines of thought when it comes to games – there are those who would rather games were dropped all together in favour of regular agility and jumping events because there are serious arguments for the fact that doing the games with our dogs is actually counter intuitive with their training. To a certain extent I agree (that it is counter intuitive not that they should be dropped all together). I refuse to do anything less than 12 weave poles in the gamblers classes as I have seen plenty of evidence that weave pole performance in regular events can decline due to dogs repetitively doing 4 or 8 or 6 poles in games. Some die hards may argue if the poles are trained correctly then the dog should just weave however many are in front of them regardless of what they have just done in a gamblers class. My answer is our dogs are not robots and that muscle memory is a strong element of their performance and there is no way I should be calling my dog out for not completing 12 poles when I have just asked her to do 4 and 8 poles only over and over in another ring. Weaves for high drive dogs are a huge control issue. Most dogs who like to run flat out and have strong drive to complete obstacles and just run as fast as they can would see poles as a frustrating obstacle. Our fastest dogs here in the West frequently can be witnessed barking, growling, yipping vocally whilst stuck doing the poles. I may be anthropomorphising a little here but frankly I think they get pissed when their handlers can take off on them to get further ahead and they are stuck doing the poles, they literally have to apply serious self control to make sure they get all the poles done properly – letting them do 4 and 8 poles over and over is just like giving them the okay to do that elsewhere. So hence in a gamblers class I will rarely use the 4 or 8 pole option and must admit I get a little grumpy if the 12 poles are not an option because automatically my possible points are restricted. Another element of retroactive behaviours seen and allowed in games is dogs getting to do whatever obstacles are in front of them irrespective of handlers plans, on the way to gamble lines or sequences in Strat Pairs if dogs take obstacles the handler doesn’t intend them to take it has no bearing on qualifying. This does lead to slackness on the handler’s part and also more out of control behaviours by the dogs on courses. So I can see the point of view of those who don’t like games and want to see them dropped. However I truly believe that with the right approach and outlook games can serve an excellent purpose in training as well. Again people are probably thinking – Here she goes again…she’s training in the ring Ummmm Ahhhhhh! Well. Tough. The only person it affects in games is the judge, myself and the dog. I don’t use up any extra time so I don’t see a problem. Example: The other night in Excellent Gamblers Cypher didn’t quite give me his proper four of the floor behaviour on his dogwalk the first time round. Rather than rush off and try and stick to our plan of doing a course that would give us all the needed points I decided then and there to work his contacts. So we did the dogwalk, aframe and seesaw several times over till I was happy with the performance he gave me and the whistle blew. We were completely out of place when the whistle blew but I tried to get us down there (he took a seesaw on the way which I should have insisted on a finished behaviour for him but I rushed him which was stupid) however we ran out of time to do the gamble. I’d rather blow a games entry like that (making sure his contacts are consistent because no way could I have done the contacts that often in a regular agility event) than get all hung up on getting the pass. Gamblers allows you to correct things straight away if you are not happy with them and that’s why I will always play that game. Snooker is a little different. But again it comes down to clever handling. I think people get all hung up on where they have to go and what they have to avoid and what points they get and stress themselves out way too much about these things. Snooker can be just like a normal regular Novice/Excellent or Masters Agility course. So long as you can cope with not having your course numbered in the usual way. Yes you have to have a course planned in your head. But really all it is, is single bar, obstacle, single bar, obstacle, single bar, obstacle then closing sequence. You can make it as easy or as hard as you like especially in Novice and Excellent. Masters might be a little more difficult (well okay sometimes it’s a LOT more difficult but hey that’s why it’s called Masters) but for the most part you can run a course. Strat Pairs is a little different from both Snooker and Gamblers in terms of negative and positive aspects. And probably I can see with some high drive, very fired up dogs that it could create huge problems but it also depends on how well you handle and plan your attack. You don’t have to rescue if you don’t want. That can be an agreement right there that will make things easier for you. You don’t have to have a gazillion change overs. You can choose to work particular sequences according to your dog’s strengths or even if you want to reinforce behaviours you can choose to take on certain obstacles. So the games, ultimately can work for you or against you and I think it’s up to the individual on how they want to approach them. Me? I am of the – well I love running agility and doing trials so if games are all that’s on offer I will take them up and still do my level best to maintain the same criteria I have for any other agility or jumping event. So the three train of thoughts are (returning to my clearly derailed point I was trying to make from earlier) – 1) Games suck, get rid of them 2) Games are great because I can get away with crap training and crap handling and still pass 3) Games are good because I can treat them like regular classes and it’s just more opportunities to play agility. Also people might have the concept that the games are less competitive than regular agility and jumping – which is quite possible but is certainly not going harsh my sense of pride in achieving three games wins at the last Nationals that’s for sure.

Here endeth the unplanned rant about games. Geez. I have no idea where that came from – whatever, we have lots of games coming up so maybe now’s a good time to say it. Where was I? Ah yes Cloverdale. So whilst Cy and I had a good practice run in the ring in Excellent Gamblers he pulled off two lovely runs for the team in Agility and Jumping, going clear in both helping the team to 2nd place out of 23. Raven had two nice runs as reserve for the team – one bar in Jumping and one missed bar in Agility. Gamblers was a little different and brought home to me the full impact really of her dislocated hip from last year. We were in Masters and she was flying round the course – running contacts being her forte meaning she could gather all her points fairly fast and in good time – whistle blew and I knew we couldn’t mess around so I head down for the gamble line and she must have though we were heading out so I had to make a sharp call to get her to turn to the gamble line. She turned but then for the first time in seven and a half years of competing in trials she stopped dead on course and just looked at me. No yelps or cried of pain just stopped running all together. Looking at me with the oddest expression, ears up and alert. My stomach dropped immediately and then I just patted my leg to see if she’d trot over to me and she trotted over to me fine. No lameness or soreness. She was, to all intents and purposes, totally sound. We left the ring and I let her warm down, watching her all the while, she was keen as usual for her treats and I started wondering. I recalled the course and then the turn she made and realised that was the exact same kind of turn on that side of her hip when she dislocated it. I daresay she felt a twinge or something and that rather vivid memory I am sure came crashing back about the day she had slammed it into the dislocation on course. Here is my nearly nine year old seriously kami kaze Border Collie who looks like she might just have developed a skerrick of self preservation for once. Whilst I wish I could take that day back in hindsight it really does look like it has given her little bit more caution about throwing her little body round the course without a care in the world. She went onto run the agility course last night and it was all good. So I may not have the fiercely lunatic insanely mad Raven on course anymore and I think that has to be a good thing in terms of her own safety.

Spryte had a very good night for her first trial back. She ran as a reserve for another team and had two beautifully clear and super fast runs that I was extremely pleased with. Start lines were great, contacts were good and we ran very in tune with each other. The Novice Gamblers we went in uncovered the dogwalk contact weakness though as she started to do her four in the colour trick again. So I made the decision then and there to just work her contacts not caring if we passed or not. Somehow she still managed to get enough points to pass even after working the contacts several times over. So that was a nice surprise at the end of the night.

The following Friday was a fundraiser trial run by the Agility committee, gearing up for the Nationals here in 2010. Spryte had a great night going clear in three out of four runs (picking up three first places in the 400 class and three third places overall) only missing the Open jumping pass because I momentarily forgot she’s still a baby dog really and doesn’t just do obstacles in her way. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was her dogwalk contact and I am going to be working on that intensively for the next month or so before the BC Nationals. Cypher had two runs and ran clear in Masters Agility, saving my ass a couple of times when I didn’t give him the clearest of directions and knocked one bar in Masters Jumping (probably because I was in a huge hurry as the judge had measured the course wrong and given a wrong course time – Cy was a second over course time) but I was very happy with his efforts. Raven had two runs and did a cracker run in Agility but I gave a late turn command (probably my subconscious still worried about her hip) and she took a jump off course and in Masters Jumping…well let’s just say various factors came into play causing me to get the course completely wrong. And that’s all I have to say about that.

But speaking of Spryte I would like a comprehensive inexhaustible list called 1001 Ways to Proof your Two On Two Off Contact. So far I have:

1) Will send over dogwalk and get into position without handler moving. (Handler can be at any point within a 20 meter radius)

2) Will wait and be called over dogwalk getting into position without handler moving (Handler stands at any point with 20 meter radius of the end of the contact)

3) Will hold position when handler blows by at any speed and at any angle on either side.

4) Will hold position when handler front crosses with side.

5) Will hold position is handler runs in opposite direction past the contact.

6) Will get into position if handler only runs halfway, quarter way, three quarter way and stops dead.

7) Will hold position even when other dogs blast by chasing favourite toy

8) Will hold position even if handler throws favourite toy or food past the contact

9) Will hold position even when handler is talking, praising yelling and wait for release word.

10) Will run into position regardless of how far laterally the handler runs away from the contact.

Can anyone thing of anymore??

Back to work Thursday. Movies I’ve seen on the holidays (this is me comforting myself with the affirmation that I actually did non job/chore/errand related activities on holidays):

1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Do NOT see if you are looking for light hearted, uplifting movie that will leave you feeling all happy) Very good dramatic film, excellent acting even more superb makeup and a truly unique story. F.Scott Fitzgerald deserves his vaunted place in literary history.

2) Yes Man – Yes, yes I know you are probably not a huge fan of Jim Carrey (the number of people I speak to I have to wonder how the man makes money as so few people actually list him as one of their favourite actors but I digress) but anyway. This story was good, light, funny and very entertaining and with an underlying message that pops up in my head on a disturbingly frequent basis. Here’s a quote from it that I like: The world’s a playground. You know that when you are a kid, but somewhere along the way everyone forgets it.

3) Tropic Thunder – Irreverent and hilarious – it’s worth it just for Robert Downey Junior and Ben Stiller’s performances alone, also it has reduced the size of the stick I envision up Tom Cruise’s ass as his performance is really quite jaw dropping (and that’s more in the “Oh my god I can’t believe he looks like that and says those things” than the “Oscar performance right there” way)

4) Gabriel (Aussie made movie on DVD) – I’m all interested in the stories at the moment…the whole Angels falling to Earth, What’s Michael’s gig and wow Gabriel is really a bad ass warrior arch angel isn’t he? I like reading about the mythology around the fall and the creation of Lucifer and all that kind of thing. Possibly Supernatural the TV show is seeping a little deep into my psyche these days but I just find it all profoundly fascinating. And this movie scratched that itch. It has a Dark City feel to it and it was a good watch for me.

5) Zack and Miri Make a Porno – This was funny and amusing and also irreverent in a South Parkesque kind of way. Besides it had two actors in it from the Kevin Smith films and I have always been a fan of theirs. Good for a light hearted fluffy comedy hour and a half. And no i did not pay money to go see it at a cinema – we downloaded this one.

6) Madagascar 2 – Awesome! Loved it and the Penguins get way more screentime and I have decided they are the best animated characters EVER. It was as good if not better than the first one and at one point I laughed so hard I had tears of laughter running down my face. David Schwimmer as the hypochondriac giraffe is a sight to be seen.

7) Australia – Don’t care how many critics bagged this they clearly had the wrong expectations going into it. I loved it. Showcased outback Australia absolutely beautifully, the cinematography was stunning and Nicole Kidman was not only tolerable but even amusing in parts. Hugh Jackman was…well Hugh Jackman, nice to look at, good to hear and he played his character very well. Of course there are all underlying issues of race and gender and historical recounts etc etc but I don’t go to the movies for the visceral, critical academic conversations I plan on having with myself later, I go for the escapism and I poke my tongue out at anyone who wants to frown on my escapism parade.

8) Twilight – Saw that one twice. But with good reason. Read the book like 13 times already. You think I jest. Sadly I do not. The Twilight saga is kind of like the equivalent of my guilty crack literary addiction. Dare I use the word ‘literary’ in the same context without invoking the wrath of the critics of Literature with the big ‘L’? Yes I do dare. Twilight has hooked so many teenagers into reading it’s perceived trashiness and popcorn quality is far outweighed by its positive effects on kids and reading. Anyway – it’s a good vampire romance flick with an awesome Vampire baseball scene and a very amusing Bringing the human over to meet the Vamp family scene that makes me smile just thinking about it.

And that’s about it on the movie front. In other news I have decided that the Nintendo Wii is the BEST invention by a gaming company EVER. Seriously I cannot speak highly enough of it and I spent the first year after it came out mocking anyone who talked about it because honestly how lame is the name WII??? *smirks* Heh, wanna come over to my place for the wii? Wanna wii together? Yes I am probably five years old but I really do think the PR or marketing division of Nintendo should have anticipated the inevitable mocking of the name ‘Wii’. Anyway. We have one now and it is AWESOME. Finally a video game a kid can play all day and have done some exercise by the end of it. We have Wii Fit (plus Sport, Play and Guitar Hero 3 & World Tour) and I can tell you know that game is a workout and a half! Yoga, Muscle, Aerobics and Balance exercises that have been turned into GAMES. I’m sweating within 15 minutes of doing the stuff in that game but I never feel like stopping because it’s addictive. And I have this thing where I have to keep improving my score or I get very pissy. I have even changed my mind about the Utopian Classroom being filled with laptops. I want it filled with Wii consoles and monitors because you can do EVERYTHING interactively and using multiple muscle groups. So yes I am a born again wii convert addict. And Guitar Hero is very neatly scratching that itch I had a while ago to learn music…yes I know it’s not real music but seriously the hand eye coordination needed and the fact that you can make nice sounds and music happen is all good enough for me. Plus the fact that I think I’ll be in my 60s before I even get to look at expert level means the longevity of this game is limitless!

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Your Quarterly update (looks shamefaced…briefly)

Hmmm. September 21st was the last update. That’s over three months ago now. There’s an awful lot of news to update on. My brain hurts just thinking about it all. I’d love to just give a dot point list but I just know that my particular brand of OCD runs to actually writing way more than I have to once I get started. So bear with me.
Next event up after September 21st was probably the Royal which took place from the 27th through to the 6th of October.
Unfortunately there was a touch of bad news in between the Sept 21st update and the Royal. Thursday the 25th of September. Lying on my bed reading a book and Raven jumps up for a brief pat (Raven never likes too much physical attention so the pats are always brief or you receive that disdainful look of ‘I am only tolerating this now because you somehow manage to feed me everyday’) and as usual, my automatic response is to check for her nodes. My stomach dropped immediately when I felt two pea sized nodes that were not there previously. An hour later I’m with her at Murdoch and seeing Dr Amy Lane with what I am sure is a rather depressingly pissed off expression on my face telling her that I think her nodes are up. Amy can feel them too and asks if I want to leave it for a week or two and see if it’s just an infection. At this point I think a blithely fatalistic attitude comes over me and I shake my head, tell her that she should take a fine needle aspirate now and I’d like to stay for the results. So off Raven goes and within a half hour or so Amy comes back to confirm what I already knew really but still had that silly tiny persistent hope that maybe it was something else. The lymphoma was back the bone marrow transplant had not worked and now there really was no hope for a cure at all. Raven was a little confused in the car on the way home, on the one hand she hadn’t been left there for treatment but on the other her human was making some weird noises with some salty wet stuff running down her face, she gave me one of her rare displays of affection with a lick on the cheek that made me smile even whilst I raged at the unfairness of it all.

I had an appointment with Ken the following week, Amy had made it clear that nothing needed to be done urgently and to go home and start thinking about what we were going to do next.

In the meantime the Royal arrived and we competed as per usual. Cypher had a good Royal this year, the team he was in winning both the Agility and the Jumping teams events (Hurrahs all round for Karen and Riot, Kriszty with Jess and Terra!) and putting in a nice run in Masters Agility ending up in 4th place. Raven had her usual blast with the spectators and put in some nice runs with just one or two faults in each. I wasn’t fussed I just wanted to see her have a good time because of course being so close on the heels of the return of the lymphoma I had all these morbid thoughts that it could quite well be her last Royal show ever. So shoving that aside she managed to have a lot of fun, especially on the course with two dog walks and helped keep the spectators entertained. Spryte? Well Spryte had her first Royal and thoroughly enjoyed herself albeit with some very baby dog mistakes on courses. She did a ripper Novice Jumping run but knocked two bars, Novice Agility she missed the weaver entry and in the Open runs I think she had issues with some contacts and maybe the distance challenges. She wasn’t fazed by the atmosphere at all though and continued to show me that she does still have a few more gears to go through in terms of speed. She also got to have her first go in the show ring on the Wednesday and handled it all very well even without any show clothes on since the bath the night before was apparently her cue to drop all of her coat. She’s on the small side as it is, having no coat certainly didn’t help her chances! But she moved very nicely and was solid as a rock with the judge going over her so no complaints from me.

After the Royal we moved into the last couple months of the trialling season. In terms of Raven I met with Ken in the second week of the school holidays and he examined her and basically said that we should leave her be for now, she is still a well and healthy dog, the nodes, whilst up were still small (pea sized really) and that we should try and delay treatment for when she is really starting to feel the effects of the lymphoma. Me, being slightly paranoid about it all, was concerned that I’d delay too long and one morning wake up with a sick dog on my hands. Ken felt fairly safe in assuring me that due to her previous history whereby I tend to notice other signs prior to her feeling really unwell that it would be the right move to carry on the way we were and to just monitor her for any changes which thanks to the fact that she does agility I would more than likely pick up on due to her behaviour there. Raven is feeling unwell when she slows down on course, holds her start lines and contacts and keeps all her bars up oddly enough. Ken also said the longer she goes without the chemo (since the last dose) the more likely the chemo treatment will be effective. So we tried to last as long as possible and I checked her nodes everyday.

After the Royal was a couple of trials one held by Perth and a double header held by Rockingham. Perth was some expensive training runs for us I think. Cy had bar issues as did Raven and Spryte had multiple issues of which I, being the diligent trainer I am of late *lol*, of course made a list of to remember to work on. However we did have a good Rockingham trial – Raven actually won a very tricky Masters course which felt all very excellent except I finished the course with her with this vague sense of her actually having done most of it without me, she was that far in front of me it was as though she was reading numbers by herself! Spryte also pulled off an Excellent Agility win and I got to run Kriszty’s Terra in Open Agility for a win as well. So it was a successful day all round with Cypher also picking up a couple of cards and placements. ACWA’s trial was also in the month of October but we didn’t have any joy there and was notable for me for one reason only – it is the one and only time I have ever gone home from a trial early and scratched from runs because I was just too damn tired. Of course it now being Jan 2009 I cannot remember why I was sooo tired but only that I left a trial early. The GSDA trial also was held in October and I distinctly remember that trial being purely training for young Spryte. Here let me list her issues (all trainer related of course):

1) Startlines. She has this thing whereby she will come in on lead, sit in position, I go to clip the lead off and/or hand it to the steward she stands up. I say ‘Sit’ and she apparently has no idea what that means. This happens in trials only. And I won’t walk off on her unless she sits and it has started becoming a habit of which I am not fond of.

2) Contacts. Yes yes not enough reinforcement or consistent sticking to criteria here by me I know this. So I’ve started being tougher on them in trials. If I know at training that previous week she has done a 150 two on two off perfect contacts and she doesn’t give me the behaviour in the ring, I stop , say ‘Too bad’ ask her one more time for ‘Contact’ if she offers it I say ‘Good girl’ and leave the ring. If she runs through, I stop, ask for ‘Contact’, get the behaviour off her and leave the ring. It’s completely fixable. But it is simply time, effort and repetition and consistency. Which sounds simple when I type it like that but I must be slow when it comes to this one!

3) Bars. I am now stopping her for dropped bars. This dog jumps 600 with not too much effort, I always train on 500 and warm her up on 500 and she does that height with ease. There is absolutely no reason she should drop 400 bars even if I do say stuff over the bar, give her crappy angles onto them, surprise her with them or whatever. Again training issue. And see I know this is not a line of popular thought but to me a trial is a training session. Or it should be. People say train like you trial. I’d rather trial like I train. There will be frowns saying ‘Well that’s just taking all the fun out of it, or its disrespectful of the judge, or you are making your dog unhappy’. To me trialling/training should be the same. And I am lousy as making it that way. So that is what I am working on. If we stop in training for dropped bars we are gonna stop in trialling for dropped bars. Spryte knows (like all my other dogs know) when we leave a course without running for the usual amount of time that something went wrong. Doesn’t mean I don’t go straight up for my next run and we start with a clean slate again. She doesn’t get any less enthusiastic to run because I pulled her out of a ring less than five minutes ago. It’s fun running agility, it’s even more fun to go clear and you know what the most fun is? Going clear CONSISTENTLY. Sadly consistently is NOT a word that could ever apply in my case and that’s a goal I want to work on.

So yes those are my three main issues with her. Things that will always be worked on over time are the tightening up of turns, her acceptance and adaptability to spur of the moment, no doubt last second decisions front crosses. Never my forte but I insist on doing them sometimes (how else does one improve?) and yes dogs I am going to be doing them in some crappy places at crappy times and really I don’t need a bark or growl of abuse because I got in your way! Sheesh. I don’t know how it is for other breeds but all three of my Border Collies feel the need to vocalise their disagreement with my decision to perform a front cross right there when clearly all I am doing is slowing them down. Which, typically if front cross is performed poorly, I am doing but sometimes you know I’d just like a little more flexibility. On their part not mine.

Where was I? October….yes tick that month as done. November and this is the month where I decided enough was enough with Raven and took her back in to see Ken at their new facilities in Osborne Park. Ken had moved from Murdoch due to his expanding clientele and lack of space at Murdoch. So brand new facilities in Selby Street along with a specialist surgeon and two radiographers. Raven christened the Consultation room by being the first consult in there, along with about 8 vet students. She is currently on the front page of their promo pamphlet as well doing her agility thing. That’s a little bittersweet – I’d much rather she’d never have to have anything to do with Oncology at all but then again I like the fact that she’s seen as a fighter and so far successful cancer patient. Raven told me she was tired at Judges practical exam (which by the way WA has three brand new agility judges from Woohoo!!!) when running some simple courses and at a couple of trials in November. She resumed chemo on November 14th without any complications. The same protocol as the first time – 16 treatments in all using three types of drugs. The only thing that changed was the use of the hardest hitting drug Doxorubicin. She had met her limit for that drug as she was at risk of heart failure should she continue using that one so they changed it to Epirubicin which has the same effects in terms of potency without the heart muscle damage but is harsher on the gut.

November was also the month I decided to take up Softball. What the hell? I can hear all the agility readers yelling from here. Yes well it’s always been a sport I’ve been interested in. Last played it very loosely in Primary school I believe. Anyway there is something incredibly satisfying about the sound of a bat hitting a ball and whacking the thing as far as possible. And I’ve always liked throwing stuff. J So I started training on Tuesday nights which is actually ACWA Club training night but I figured I could still train on Wednesday nights for Agility and even Thursday if I felt really hard up training wise. The games though are at a perfect time. It’s evening trials in Agility from the end of October onwards and all Softball games at either at 2 or 4pm and only go for an hour and a half. The season goes until the end of Feb. So the games NEVER clash with trials. Softball is a much more complicated sport than you think. And it’s a very different way of thinking with so many different permutations of what could and can happen and what kind of things you need to remember depending on A. Your position B. Whether there are 1, 2 or 3 players on bases, C. The weather! I’m enjoying it anyway and I don’t think it’s going to detract from my agility too much. It’s also another social circle really – new people, new friends and so vastly different from the agility world. Of course my agility friends all think I’m completely mad I’m sure but I think you can make room in your life enough if you really want to enough. And quite frankly watching those A Grade games? The skills involved and the level required – easily as difficult and awesome to watch as top level agility. I am still trying to get my head around how fast an underarm ball can actually be pitched – accurately!!! And the training won’t conflict with agility – short bursts of running and the ability to think quick and remember plays. Cypher’s affinity for incredibly strenuous tug games cannot harm the old throwing arm either. Eh whatever keeps you young I say!

So then December (and yes you can deduce form the lack of info regarding trial results that November wasn’t a successful month wins wise!) Hang on a sec. Raven did have another win in November! That’s right the Southern River trial she won 1st place in 500. I remember because it was the day after a chemo treatment! And I think she picked up a second in Masters Jumping somewhere in November as well!

Only a couple trials left in December and nothing too exciting happened there although I was a little side lined (okay a lot sidelined) by an old calf muscle injury which twinged slightly on training night at softball and then one week later tore properly since clearly I wasn’t allowed to get away with just a minor setback! This calf muscle was torn initially back in 2004 in Sydney in the middle of a BC Speciality trial. That was the weekend Robyn had to take over running Raven for me last second – still in her show clothes and everything. So yeah an old injury that unfortunately once done is always weakened and this was my second visit back to the physio for it since 2004. She said 6 weeks for this one but I have been doing my stretching and exercises religiously (and I am hardly, if ever, religious so that shows you how seriously I am taking this) and I have purchased new calf muscle supports and stuff. I really don’t want to stuff this up again since the plane tickets and accommodation are all booked for March and the Border Collie National in Canberra. So yes was somewhat restricted by that and entirely pissed off when it happened. ‘Oh dear’ was understating the issue massively and some fairly vulgar words were used that I would no doubt tell my students off severely for using. Sometimes obscenities are really the only satisfying way of dealing with these sorts of things. So Karen got to run my dogs at the last trial of the year and I have to say with little *snort* try ‘no’* training she managed to get them round their courses quite well with no more than one tiny fault on each run and some lovely handling. And so the agility season for 2008 came to an end and I have to say that of my list of highlights for the entire year several could be found in my achievements with the dogs in the trialling rings. The 2008 National and the States will always be memorable and some of the sweeter runs with Raven will be cherished.

So now here we are in January 2009. Spryte is currently in season right now and Cypher is doing his level best to convince me that he is the man for her. Sadly for Cypher he is not going to get a belated Christmas present. Part of the reason for attending the BC Nationals this year is to have a look around at the males there. Robyn will probably be breeding from her this year (maybe in June) and a suitable husband for her must be found. So she will likely be having her first litter of puppies this year. After that who knows? I have yet to decide if I will sterilise her or keep her entire. I think it will depend on her first litter and how that goes. She still needs to have her hips scored but all other health tests are passed, mostly clear by parentage. There has certainly been enough interest in puppies from her. Most non agility (and some agility) people who meet her seem to like her small size and want one just like her – she is, temperament wise, a fairly placid and incredibly gentle Border Collie who suckers people in with her dark liquid brown eyes, her small stature and her affinity for cuddles. She is the first cuddly female BC I have come across. It’s all a ruse though. If sheep or agility or other dogs racing around are involved it unleashes her inner demon very quickly and you wonder if that is a Border Collie or some kind of deranged meerkat hopped up on sugar on the end of the lead. She’s bossy with those dogs she thinks she can get away with being bossy with and sneakily grovelling with those she can’t. She knows exactly what buttons to push on Cypher to get what she wants and could quite easily steal a bone from his mouth if she wanted to.

As from next week we embark on a swimming regime to build up the dogs (and mine) condition to get them ready for the start of the agility season. As usual my fitness can also do with much improvement and I will be endeavouring to get up really early and take them walking (in this heat with the snakes around it’s crazy to be walking any later than 8am or before 7pm at night) and getting a routine going with training in the back yard and at club. So far I have booked three dogs on the plane for the BC Nats and will be entering all three. Only Raven can tell me if she will be coming or not closer to the time. I am under no allusions that this is probably her last Eastern States trip if she does go. She won both Masters Jumping and Open Agility at the last one, it would be great to see one more BC National with her but we take each day as it comes.

Spryte will be competing in the Excellent class, the showing and maybe some herding with Robyn. Cy will come for the agility. Raven has five more Masters Jumping wins to achieve for her Agility Champion and who knows? She may just make it. Stranger things have happened. This year saw two of our veterans achieve the title – Kriszty’s Jess (just turned 10) and Nicole Ford’s Corgi – Beauty who is also ten years old. So that was a great way to finish the year for the WA Agility crowd and absolutely spectacular achievements in light of the tough competition here in WA. Goals for this year? Spryte gets up into the Masters Classes and gets some games titles under her belt along with her ET. Raven stays in remission (really every other goal for her kind of pales into insignificance next to that one) and Cypher finishes off some games titles and I work towards making him as competitive as he can be and maybe finish off his CCD title. Raven is 9 in March, Spryte is 3 in July and Cypher is 5 in October. Three odd numbers must add up to a good year I hope.

In terms of my own personal goals – saving towards a huge holiday in 2011 when long service leave is due, surviving another year as a teacher in a hard to staff school, getting fitter and healthier and trying to stay a little bit more in front and less to the side or utterly behind of the general busyness that is my life. In other words try to overcome my chronic need to procrastinate about just about everything! My final goal is to come to terms and accept the fact that whilst I may be in my 35th year I am still, literally, quite a child at heart. Perhaps accept is not the right term, more like ‘ignore the guilt’. I shall not feel guilty if I want to spend a few hours playing Wii console games with friends, watch trashy popcorn television whilst defending it’s worth to all and sundry or perfect my score on various facebook word games. Also batting cages are good! The place where you can go to hit the crap out of a ball for a good hour has got to be cathartic in some form or another and it is perfectly alright for me to want a brand new softball bat.

In other non agility related news – have seen three movies recently that I enjoyed. Twilight (saw that twice and I’d say it’s because my sister dragged me to see it but in all honesty I was quite happy to watch it again) The Day the Earth Stood Still and Australia. None of them were out of this world oh my god twelve Oscars right there kind of quality but good enough to feel not ripped off by the $16.50 ticket charge these days. Also I am a Twilight addict. Have read all four books several times and shall not apologise for doing so. No they are not the literary equivalent of Bronte, Austen, Dickens or Tolstoy however they are as addictive as trashy television so hence the fascination. Also I have fondness for any kind of supernatural sci fi fantasy genre.

I’m afraid I have no images to make this entry pretty with and I really must fix that oversight as soon as possible. So for the rest of the holidays I shall do my level best to take some photos of blogworthiness quality. The rest of my holidays (which are going way too fast I might add) are filled with social lunches, dinners and drinks, softball and agility training, batting cages, movie going (plan to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button because…well I am curious), tv watching, wii playing, word game playing, reading (the line of books waiting to be read on my shelf right now is rather daunting) and just enjoying the company of Tim, my dogs and family.

First trial back is Jan 17th and is a fun teams event plus Gamblers so looking forward to that plus playing softball on Saturdays from January 10th and also have entered Spryte in a few shows to see if she can pick up some challenges. Lots to do and only so many hours in the day to do it so I find myself obsessively making TO DO lists for each day and trying to make sure I tick off at least two things each day lest I should feel unproductive. Though frankly I think the word holidays really should equal unproductive minus the guilt. Where did this idea come from that on holidays one must be productive? It’s highly overrated and yet I feel suckered into ensuring it remain so, even just a little. This is why people go away for holidays – somehow not being in your own house on a holiday means that you can get away with doing absolutely nothing all day long and feel exactly zero in the guilt department! Solution? Be rich enough to go away for every holiday period. Ahhh such simple solutions to pertinent problems. If only. 🙂